Health Initiative Rethinks Halloween With Woodland Scenery, Interactive Performances

By Anna Sekula November 4, 2009, 12:30 PM EST

The garden scene at Green Halloween NYC's launch party

Photo: Roy Reid/Rfive Design

Green Halloween NYC Launch
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Looking to tackle childhood obesity and diabetes by promoting a healthier Halloween, three groups banded together this year to create Green Halloween NYC. To kick off the initiative and emphasize costumes over candy, the partnership produced three separate events on Friday and Saturday as well as a float for the Village Halloween Parade. The group involved Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell's Washington State-based Green Halloween organization, New York's nonprofit Action Arts League and its executive director Jim Glaser (also the founder of arts collective Kostume Kult), and the Dr. Mehmet Oz-founded HealthCorps.

To get an early start to the weekend, the hosts introduced the campaign with a party for 300 supporters on Friday night at Openhouse Gallery. Designed to conjure “nature's revenge,” the intention of the launch was to build an environment that would bring to light the underlying mission of changing how Halloween is perceived by children—to make the secular celebration less about collecting sugary treats and more about inspiring creativity through interactive games and performances. Vincent Reverdy of Connected Productions designed and produced the affair.

Visual, audible, scented, edible, and tangible elements all played a part in the construction of an appropriately theatrical setting designed to engage the costumed guests. Giving shape to the idea of a place overgrown with plants and greenery, Reverdy placed an array of branches, leaves, and other earthy objects throughout the space, including a curving structure comprised of hundreds of wooden planks at the entrance, tables covered in hemp cloths, and sections of sod to create a mini garden. The design crew even fashioned chandeliers by draping Spanish moss over old bicycle wheels and suspending the fixtures from the ceiling. Adding to the motif was a woodsy fragrance emanating from several aromatherapy spritzers.

The main act of the evening combined a 180-degree video projection with live performers. Reacting to specific cues, dancers interacted with the projections, miming pulling aside curtains and driving a spaceship dressed as aliens. The surreal show was matched by ambient sounds and instrumental music.

As dramatic as the decor, the menu of nibbles from Flavor Palette also played up Halloween. Savory dishes ranged from skull-shaped bacon and gruyere patties with olives for eyes to rice balls topped with smoked salmon and nori to look like miniature jack-o-lanterns. On the sweet side, the caterer served items like sweet potato truffles covered in chocolate powder and designed to resemble spiders and moist lemon and almond cakes in the shape of bones.

Friday night's event was followed by a community festival in NoLIta's DeSalvio Park on Saturday afternoon and a fund-raising gala at White Box Art Space on Saturday night.

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